Hymn to the Guillotine

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 285th birthday.

Peter Pindar
1738 – 1819


Daughter of Liberty! whose knife
So busy chops the threads of life,
And frees from cumbrous clay the spirit;
Ah! why alone shall Gallia feel
The beauties of thy pond’rous steel?
Why must not Britain mark thy merit?

Hark! ‘tis the dungeon’s groan I hear;
And lo, a squalid band appear,
With sallow cheek, and hollow eye!
Unwilling, lo, the neck they bend;
Yet, through thy pow’r, their terrors end,
And with their heads the sorrows fly.

O let us view thy lofty grace;
To Britons shew thy blushing face,
And bless Rebellion’s life—tir’d train!
Joy to my soul! she’s on her way,
Led by her dearest friends, Dismay,
Death, and the Devil, and Tom Paine!

Sonnet IV

Cláudio Manuel da Costa
1729 – 1789


I am a cowherd; I don’t deny it, my goods
Are those you see over there, I live happily
By guiding among the fresh flowering grasses
The sweetest company of my herd of cattle;

And there’s where they hear me, the love-¬struck trunks of trees,
Into which the ancients have been transformed;
Each and ev’ry one of them feels their own ruin;
In the way that I too feel all of my worries.

You, oh trunks of great trees, (I say to them) at one time
Considered yourselves to be so firm and secure
Within the arms of a beautiful companion;

Console yourselves in me, oh solid, sturdy trunks;
Because I, at one time, also once witnessed joy;
And today I do weep at the falsehoods of Love.

from Faustus: his Life, Death, and Doom

Friedrich Maximilian Klinger
1752 – 1831

O the delightful moment! Precious reward of my toils!
Hell rejoices at thy curses, and expects a yet more frightful one from thee.
Fool! wast thou not born free?
Didst thou not bear in thy breast, like all who live in flesh,
the instinct of good as well as of evil?
Why didst thou transgress, with so much temerity,
the bounds which had been prescribed to thee?
Why didst thou endeavour to try thy strength with and against
Him who is not to be reached?
Did not God create you in such a manner,
that you were as much elevated above the devils
as above the beasts of the earth?
Did he not grant you the perceptive faculty of good and evil?
Were not your will and choice free?
We wretches are without choice, without will;
we are the slaves of evil and of imperious necessity;
constrained and condemned to all eternity to wish nothing but evil,
we are the instruments of revenge and punishment upon you.
Ye are kings of the creation, free beings,
masters of your destiny, which ye fix yourselves;
masters of the future, which only depends upon your actions.
It is on account of these prerogatives that we detest you,
and rejoice when, by your follies, your impatience, and your crimes,
you cease to be masters of yourselves.
It is only in resignation, Faustus, that present or future happiness consists.
Hadst thou remained what thou wast,
and had not doubt, pride, vanity, and voluptuousness
torn thee out of the happy and limited sphere for which thou wast born,
thou mightst have followed an honourable employment,
and have supported thy wife and children; and thy family,
which is now sunk into the refuse of humanity,
would have been blooming and prosperous;
lamented by them, thou wouldst have died calmly on thy bed,
and thy example would have guided thy posterity along the thorny path of life.

Translation by George Borrow

Cups of Crimson Wine

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 255th birthday.

Mah Laqa Bai
1768 – 1824


Cups of crimson wine are circling in rounds of dance
If the beloved is glimpsed, this party abounds in dance
God made this beloved peerless in my view
Everything before my eyes resounds with dance
You captivate beasts and birds along with people low and high
Each in its way obeys your command in bounds of dance
Leave the party of my rivals and come over to mine
I’ll show you a star whose very name sounds like dance
Why shouldn’t Chanda be proud, O Ali, in both worlds?
At home with you she eternally astounds with dance

Translation by Scott Kugle

The Exile to His Country

We present this work in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

Mary Anne Holmes
1773 – 1805


Ah! where is now my peaceful cot?
And where my happy home?
Far distant from that cherished spot,
In banishment, I roam.
From thee, my country! I am driven;
A wanderer forced from thee;
But yet my constant prayer to Heaven
Shall be to make thee free.

How blissful once my lot appeared!
How brightly Fortune smiled!
My daily toil by hope was cheered,
By happiness beguiled.
My blooming children played around;
Their mother blessed each hour;
Till tyrants on our prospects frowned,
And crushed us with their power.
They burned our humble dwelling then
Our little all destroyed;
And left us, the hard-hearted men!
Of every hope devoid.
And thus, my country! I was driven,
A wanderer far from thee;
But yet my ceaseless prayer to Heaven
Has been to make thee free

My helpless children sobbed aloud
Upon the parting day;
My Mary’s head with grief was bowed;
Oh how I wished to stay!
With anguish o’er the spot we mourned,
Where long our cottage stood;
And, as we went, we often turned
To view the neighbouring wood.
And when our vessel put to sea,
As dimmer grew the shore,
My bosom panted heavily,
To think that, never more,
My eyes upon that land should gaze,
Where all my youth was spent;
And where I thought to end my days,
In virtue and content.

Can virtue make content secure,
While tyrants may destroy
The simple blessings of the poor,
And blast their rising joy?
My loved, lost Country! ruined, driven,
An exile far from thee,
My last and fondest prayer to Heaven
Shall be to make thee free.

Welcome, Welcome, Brother Debtor

Francis Williams
c. 1700 – 1770


Welcome, welcome Brother debtor;
to yon poor but merry place,
Where no Bayliff, dun or setter,
Dare to show their frightful face,
But kind sir, as you’re a stranger;
Down your garnish you must lay
Or your coat will be in danger
You must either strip or pay.

Ne’er Repine at your confinement
From your children or your wife,
Wisdom lies in true Refinement
Thro’ the various scenes of life
Scorn to Show that least resentment
Tho beneath the frowns of fate,
Knaves and beggars find contentment,
Tears and cares attend the great.

Tho’ our Creditors are spiteful
And restrain our bodies here,
Use will make a Gaol delightful
Since there’s nothing else to fear,
Every Island’s but a prison
Strongly guarded by the sea,
Kings and princes for the reason
Prisoners are as well as we.

What was it made great Alexander
weep at his unfriendly fate?

Twas because he could not wander
Beyond ye world’s strong prison gate,
The world itself is strongly bounded
by the heavens and stars above,
Why should we then be confounded,
since there’s nothing free but love.

from Oberon

We present this work in honor of the 210th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Christoph Martin Wieland
1733 – 1813


Now through the outward court swift speeds the knight ;
Within the second from his steed descends;
Along the third his pace majestic bends:
Where’er he enters, dazzled by his sight,
The guards make way, — his gait, his dress, his air,
A nuptial guest of highest rank declare.
Now he advances towards an ebon gate,
Where with drawn swords twelve Moors gigantic wait,
And piecemeal hack the wretch who steps unbidden there.
But the bold gesture and imperial mien Of Huon,
as he opes the lofty door, Drive back the swords that crossed his path before,
And at his entrance flamed with lightning sheen.
At once, with rushing noise, the valves unfold:
High throbs the bosom of our hero bold,
When, locked behind him, harsh the portals bray :
Through gardens decked with columns leads the way,
Where towered a gate incased with plates of massy gold.
There a large forecourt held a various race
Of slaves, a hapless race, sad harem slaves,
Who die of thirst ‘mid joy ‘s o’erflowing waves !
And when a man, whom emir honors grace,
Swells in his state before their hollow eye,
Breathless they bend, with looks that seem to die,
Beneath the weight of servitude oppressed ;
Bow down, with folded arms across the breast,
Nor dare look up to mark the pomp that glitters by.

Translation by Robyn Lowrie

Lundu in Praise of an Adoptive Brazilian

Domingos Caldas Barbosa
1739 – 1800


Eyes thus turned gazing,
Head thus inclined
Steps thus taken
She comes to communicate with me.
Oh! Companion,
It cannot be or yes it will be,
The moves are those of a Brazilian.
Who could have told me,
But it is true;
That Lisbon produced
A Pretty Brazilian Woman.

Translation by Lucia Helena Costigan


We present this work in honor of the poet’s 325th birthday.

Pietro Metastasio
1698 – 1782


Why, froward goddess, try and try again
To block my every step with brambles and rocks?
Wouldst cow me by your stare of high disdain
Or make me drag you toward me by your locks?
Such practices might well be the undoing
Of easily panicked souls, but be advised:
If the whole world fell suddenly into ruin
I’d watch it, curious yet unexercised.

To confrontations of this kid I feel
Quite equal now. I know you are still trying
To wear me down, eventually. Not so:
For I am like to steel which, in defying
The constant injuries of hammer and wheel,
Grows finer and more luminous with each blow.